The Soldier's Way
The Galactic Empire is born out of the collapsing Old Republic. However, the seeds of change are planted during the Clone Wars, the epic war between the Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems depicted in Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, amid a trade dispute, blockade and invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation, then-Senator Palpatine convinces Naboo’s Queen Padmé Amidala to address the Galactic Senate, in order to call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor of the Republic Finis Valorum’s leadership, due to his alleged inability to act quickly to end the occupation of Naboo. The crisis on Naboo allows Palpatine to be elected Chancellor.
When the extent of the Separatist threat becomes clear in Episode II, the Old Republic Senate, the legislature of the Republic, grants Palpatine emergency powers to deal with the crisis. This conflict allows Palpatine to remain in office long after his term as Chancellor officially expires. Palpatine promises to return his powers to the Senate once peace and order is restored to the galaxy. His first order is to create an army of clone troopers resulting in the construction of a massive military. He takes advantage of the conflict to increase his political power, and by the time of Episode III he is effectively a dictator.
The Jedi begin to distrust the Chancellor’s motives, fearing he has come under the influence of a Dark Lord of the Sith named Darth Sidious. Palpatine insists to the Jedi that the war, and thus his emergency powers, will continue until Separatist leader General Grievous is killed. Their concerns are shared by several Senators, who suspect Palpatine may not return his emergency powers to the Senate as promised. Among them are two who had long supported Palpatine, Padmé Amidala and Bail Organa. The film eventually reveals that Palpatine and Sidious are one and the same, and that he has been manipulating the Republic and the Separatists against each other.
When the Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker discovers Palpatine is actually the mysterious Sith lord Darth Sidious, he returns to the Jedi Temple to inform Jedi Master Mace Windu what he has learned. Windu then leaves with three other Masters to arrest Palpatine, instructing Anakin to remain at the temple. Anakin ignores Mace Windu’s directive and returns to the Chancellor’s office to prevent the Jedi from killing him; Palpatine has manipulated him into believing that he has the power to save Anakin’s pregnant wife, Padmé Amidala, from dying in childbirth. Mace Windu, with a cadre of Jedi, enters Palpatine’s office and declares that he is under arrest and that the Senate will determine his fate. Palpatine dispenses with his false modest persona and reveals his power-hungry nature, retorting “I am the Senate!”. Palpatine quickly produces a lightsaber and dispatches all but Windu. When Anakin arrives, Windu is standing over the disarmed Palpatine, prepared to strike. Anakin intervenes on Palpatine’s behalf by cutting off Windu’s hand, allowing Palpatine to send Windu plunging to his death with a blast of Force lightning. Anakin then submits to the dark side of the Force, becoming Palpatine’s third Sith apprentice, Darth Vader.
Palpatine declares the Jedi to be traitors and enemies of the Republic, and issues Order 66, a secret order he implanted in the clones to overthrow their Jedi commanders. Led by Darth Vader, the Grand Army of the Republic, who once took orders from the Jedi, all but exterminate the Jedi Order in a massive galaxy-wide slaughter. Secure in his power and position, Palpatine reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor for life. The Senate enthusiastically supports Palpatine, although a few, like Padmé and Organa, realize that the freedom enshrined by the Republic has been destroyed in the name of a “safe and secure society.” A deleted scene in the film establishes that the two are among the main founders of the Rebel Alliance, which later arises in A New Hope.
Two remaining Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, attempt to attack and destroy the Sith once and for all. Yoda confronts Palpatine, and Obi-Wan duels his former apprentice, now Darth Vader. Obi-wan defeats Vader, but Yoda’s duel with Palpatine ends in a stalemate and he is forced to flee for his life; both Jedi are forced to go into exile. Padme’s children, with their mother dead and their father a Sith Lord, are placed into adoptive families until such time as the living Force reaches out to them and they take up their destiny.
Organization of power
With the end of the Clone Wars, the extermination of the Jedi Order and the formation of the First Galactic Empire, Palpatine rules with absolute power as Emperor. He retains the emergency powers that had been voted to him in Attack of the Clones, allowing him to rule for decades under what amounts to martial law. Darth Vader is the Emperor’s second-in-command and his ruthless chief enforcer, greatly feared throughout the galaxy. In the 19 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Palpatine rules the galaxy from the confines of his heavily guarded palace on Coruscant. During that same time, Vader travels extensively to most of the galactic regions to enforce the Emperor’s rule.
The Senate, now known as the Imperial Senate, nominally continues to exist, though it is virtually powerless. Palpatine dissolves the Senate (off-camera) in A New Hope after discovering that several members of the Senate are members of the Rebellion. Aside from Palpatine, the real power in the Empire is in the hands of planetary regional governors, sector governors (the “moffs”) and the Grand Moffs who oversee collections of sectors such as what was once known as the Outer Rim, and after as the Oversector Outer. After Palpatine dissolves the Senate, the regional governors are formally granted direct control over their planet territories.
In A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin explains the Empire’s philosophy as “rule through fear of force rather than force itself.” The instrument of this power is the military, which includes the Imperial Stormtroopers, a massive fleet of starships, and the Death Star, a moon-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire planets. Plans for the Death Star first appear (in universe chronology) in Attack of the Clones and construction begins at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
The Imperial Army is the main ground force of the Galactic Empire. It operates massive ground combat vehicles and maintains garrisons across the galaxy. It also cooperates with other branches of the Empire in a variety of operations. The Imperial Army consists of a considerable number of legions, enough to project power throughout the galaxy. Some of the legions are stationed on the capital planet Coruscant as part of the Emperor’s personal security, while others are scattered in the Imperial Navy and planetary garrisons across the galaxy. Imperial Army officers and crew typically wear the Imperial standard grey uniforms when not clad in armor. Contrary to popular belief, the stormtroopers are not in fact the army, but rather an elite corps that works as a ground force for the Navy—similar to a Marine Corps.
The Imperial Navy, also referred to as the Imperial Starfleet, was the military arm of the Galactic Empire in charge of maintaining security, peace and order in the galaxy. Commanded by Darth Vader, it absorbed the military forces of the Galactic Republic after Palpatine’s declaration of the New Order. Organization of the Imperial Navy is assigned to the Moffs.
At its peak, the Imperial Navy fielded millions of warships including the 26,000 “Star Destroyers” that are shown in the film. They fulfilled the Emperor’s will throughout the galaxy. After its defeat at the Battle of Endor, the Galactic Empire splits up into warring factions and the Imperial Starfleet splinters along with it. While much of the remnants of the Imperial Navy were later reunited under impressive Imperial commanders, the military organization covered in this article ceased to exist shortly after the death of the Emperor.
Specific responsibilities of the Imperial Navy included defending Imperial citizens from space-based threats such as pirates, smugglers and rebel contingents, enforcing Imperial Will, and overseeing commerce through customs and blockade operations. The Imperial Navy also performs orbital bombardments, transports major ground force deployments and supports them with space and aerial support.
Imperial Navy uniforms come in a variety of designs and colors depending on unit, such as white for intelligence officers, but are usually Imperial standard grey as the rest of the Imperial officer corps.
The Stormtroopers operate with the Navy, and are fielded like marines separate from the army.
See also: Stormtrooper (Star Wars)
Resistance and decline
In a deleted scene in Revenge of the Sith, several influential senators including Bail Organa of Alderaan, Padme Amidala of Naboo, and Mon Mothma of Chandrila, meet in secret to form what will later become the Alliance to Restore the Republic, more commonly referred to as the Rebel Alliance. During the two decades that take place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the Rebellion grows and becomes a formidable enemy of the Empire.
The Death Star, a moon-sized space station with sufficient firepower to destroy an entire planet, is designed to be the supreme weapon of the Empire’s power. Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, the station’s commander, shortly after informing the heads of the Imperial Military that Palpatine has dissolved the Senate, demonstrates that power in A New Hope, when he destroys Alderaan merely as a show of force. In the film’s climactic scene, however, the station is assaulted by a small force of Rebel starfighters who have come into possession of the station’s blueprints. The battle ends with the Death Star’s destruction at the hands of Luke Skywalker, which is the Rebel Alliance’s first major success against the Empire.
After several more years of conflict, the Alliance finally overthrows the Empire in Return of the Jedi. In the film’s climactic battle, the Rebellion destroys the second Death Star and a number of capital ships that contain a great portion of the Imperial Navy’s highest-ranking officers. During this battle, Vader redeems himself by killing Palpatine in order to save his son Luke Skywalker, but is himself mortally wounded in the process.
After the destruction of the second Death Star, the remnants of the Empire fractured into several splinter factions. The First Order is one of these groups, led by former Imperial officers who adhere to the principles of the Empire’s government. They become a major force group in the galaxy in The Force Awakens and face a reformed Rebel Alliance called the Resistance.
In the Star Wars expanded universe, the Rebels, renamed the New Republic, fight to claim the galaxy from remaining Imperials styling themselves as independent controllers of portions of the galaxy.
In the Jedi Prince novel series, a group of impostors calling themselves the Prophets of the Dark Side install a three-eyed mutant named Trioculus as Emperor by claiming that he is Palpatine’s son. By the end of the series, Palpatine’s true son, Triclops, helps the Rebels defeat this new enemy.
In the Thrawn trilogy book series, the New Republic is almost brought to its knees by Grand Admiral Thrawn, the new leader of the remnants of the Empire and a military genius. By the time of the third book in the series, Thrawn has nearly defeated the New Republic, but they claim victory in a last-ditch effort, and Thrawn is killed by his own bodyguard, shattering the Empire’s unity.
In the Dark Empire comic book series, Palpatine is reborn in a clone body and unites most of the scattered remnants of the Empire, hoping to retake control of the galaxy. By the sequel, Empire’s End, he is defeated and destroyed once and for all.
In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, an Imperial admiral named Daala commandeers the remainder of the Imperial Navy and mounts a ferocious assault on the New Republic. She nearly succeeds in taking over the galaxy, but is foiled by New Republic pilots Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian in the final entry, Champions of the Force.
In the novel Darksaber, Admiral Daala, frustrated with the Imperial warlords in the Core fighting and bickering amongst themselves, orchestrates the warlords’ deaths and unites and becomes the leader of the remaining Imperial forces. After being defeated in battle once again by the New Republic, she resigns and selects Gilad Pellaeon (originally in the Thrawn Trilogy) as the new leader, where he becomes Grand Admiral Pellaeon.
By the time of the New Jedi Order series, the remaining Imperial military factions sign a truce with the New Republic, becoming the Imperial Remnant. The former enemies then become allies against the invading Yuuzhan Vong. A few years later, the Remnant help the Galactic Alliance fight an assimilating insect species known as the Killiks, and in the early Legacy era they are a third party in the Second Galactic Civil War but made peace with the Alliance and Confederation. All three of these were represented by former Imperial commanders.
The Star Wars: Legacy comic book series, set 130 years after the original Star Wars film, explains that, during a civil war, the New Galactic Empire known as the Fel Empire declares war on the Galactic Alliance, the successor state of the New Republic. This conflict begins the Sith-Imperial War, which after three years leads to the eventual defeat of the Galactic Alliance and the Galactic Empire asserting its domination over the galaxy once again. Another split occurs as the Sith Lord Darth Krayt the leader of the One Sith, usurps the throne and forces Emperor Roan Fel to take refuge in the fortress planet of Bastion. The Galactic Alliance Remnant led by Admiral Gar Stazi, Fel’s forces known as the Empire-in-exile led by Empress Marasiah Fel and the New Jedi Order led by Jedi Master K’Krukk united against Darth Krayt’s Galactic Empire and successfully destroy it and the three united factions formed a new galactic government out of their organisations called the Galactic Federation Triumvirate but the former Empire-in-exile still technically carried on the New Order that Palpatine had created. The One Sith however, led by Darth Wredd, remain at large and wage a war against the GFT known as the Darth Wredd’s insurgency but two years later in 140 ABY, the former Empire-in exile works with the other two factions and kill Wredd, dissolve the One Sith, which defeats the Sith once and for all and allows the Galaxy to enter an era of peace.